Student Pilots – Dealing with Lockdown

Becoming a commercial pilot during a global pandemic

With student pilots facing unprecedented challenges, we wanted to find out more about what motivated our students to start commercial training, and how they are coping in the face of adversity.

Coronavirus affects all stages commercial pilot training, from those wanting to start their ATPL theory, to those who’ve recently received their full ATPL and are looking for jobs.

One upside for students who are starting now is that training takes roughly 18 months to complete – in that time, airlines are expected to be in a better position compared to the one they are in now. Of course, there will be a lot of competition for jobs (when isn’t there?), but the current problems facing commercial pilots is no reason not to start your flight training journey.

Jonethan Griffin takes us through his path so far. While he says becoming a pilot is what he’s wanted to do from very early on, his journey up until this point has been rather unique.

“I’ve achieved a lot in my adult life, from driving and gunning Battle tanks in the British Army to Hostile Environment Close protection and it was whilst working as a bodyguard in Somalia, when I was blown up for yet another time, resting in  hospital bed I reassessed my life and decided this was it, I was making the change”.

Jonethan is agonisingly close to finishing his ATPL theory, with only one more module of exams to take – “I’ve completed all my hour building and currently awaiting the lockdown to end so I can attend revision week for Mod 3 and sit the exams. We maybe in lockdown, and this might hamper our goals, but I believe it’s only a small hurdle in the grand scheme of issues at present”.

However, as with many pilots who’ve gotten this far in training, he remains resolute in finishing, and is not overly worried about the current situation facing airlines – “I will continue to work until such a point that I can start. I will forever remain the optimist; as much as the aviation world has shrunk due to coronavirus, there will always be a need for pilots, with people retiring and people leaving. So, I will carry on as and when I can”.

Although flight training has ground to a halt for many student pilots, theory training is something that continues – including Bristol Groundschool where we’ve been running regular webinars on specific subjects, so students can continue to learn. We asked Jonethan if he was pleased, he chose Bristol Groundschool’s modular route over other options, such as integrated routes:

“Training modularly has probably been the best decision I’ve made so far, having first originally passed selection for Easyjet training. I believe I would have been in major financial difficulties now. The flexibility and financial aspect of modular far outweigh any benefit integrated does”.

Of course, many pilots who are about to finish their training will be looking at the immediate future, and what lies ahead of them in their job-hunt. Jonethan is cautiously optimistic – “I think at present it is anyone’s guess how things will be moving forward; I believe the new normal will only have small temporary implications to aviation. Social distancing is impossible to achieve on aircraft, Micheal O’Leary has a point that social distancing on aircraft is impossible and pointless trying to achieve. But exactly how thing aregoing to change I think would only be speculation. 

Looking further ahead, Jonethan believes that the modular route will continue to prove a popular route from which airlines recruit, especially given the extra life experience that a lot of modular students possess.

“The signs had already started to show before coronavirus that airlines were taking a different view of Modular students. I believe this will continue, since modular students can be a lot more flexible, adaptable, resourceful and to a large extent, experienced within the knowledge of the industry.” 

Despite the current challenges, Jonethan remains upbeat – “It’s not all bad, I can speak from experience of living in a shipping container in the middle of Iraq, that there are worse places we could be.”

We will continue to share stories from our students – if you’ve not already had an email asking you for your story, please send a message to liam@bristol.gs.

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